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Women’s studies and gender studies are areas of scholarly activity still relatively neglected in Wales. The aim of the Centre for Gender Studies in Wales is to provide a focus within the University for cross-Faculty, multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary research in gender studies generally, and in relation to Welsh history, culture and society in particular.

By bringing together researchers who work on all aspects of gender, the Centre aims to strengthen existing research clusters in the manner recommended by the research councils and the REF. It also aims to build on current collaborative activity between the Centre staff and colleagues in other institutions and organisations, through developing joint research and publishing projects on gender studies in Wales, and through organising joint conferences, seminars and symposia.

In sum, the Centre provides greater scope for interdisciplinary, collaborative and comparative approaches to gender studies within and outside the University, and within and beyond Wales.

Dr Emily Underwood-Lee's work with Welsh Women's Aid has transformed training, policy and service provision for women and children in Wales who have suffered domestic violence, as well as informed training for police officers.

The 40 Voices, 40 Years project gathered information, memories, successes and materials across the 40 years of the Welsh Women’s Aid movement, from its beginnings as a collection of grassroots women’s organisations created out of the Women’s Liberation Movement of the early 1970s, to the present day. 

Dr Underwood-Lee said: "I’m proud of playing a role in a project that enables women’s stories to be heard on a national stage and at the highest level in Government.

"This project allows us to amplify these stories and get them heard in places where they can be used to educate and inform and to make real change to the lives of women and children in Wales and beyond."

Impact

The heritage of women in Wales, the violence against women movement, and Welsh Women’s Aid is better interpreted, explained, identified and recorded.

People have developed new skills in heritage conservation, digital storytelling, oral history collection, engaging with community groups, and the history of the Women’s Movement.

Future policy and practice has been / will continue to be informed by the project.

A free, downloadable training guide to help organisations learn and improve services through listening to the Forty Voices, Forty Years stories


Literary scholar Professor Diana Wallace works on historical fictions with a particular interest in how women and other marginalised writers have used this often maligned genre. Her work explores how novelists and short story writers re-imagine the unrecorded past through fiction and intervene in traditional historiographical narratives. Her current project, a monograph entitled Writing the Past: Modernism and historical fictions, uncovers and explores a strangely neglected body of work by writers in and from the four nations of Britain.  Writers discussed will include Virginia Woolf, Joseph Conrad, H.D., Lynette Roberts, Naomi Mitchison and Helen Waddell

When the first Welsh National Women’s Liberation Conference was held Aberystwyth in July 1974, there were no Women’s Aid refuges in Wales, no Rape Crisis Centres, women in working in industry and the professions earned, on average, approximately half as much as men, only a scant amount of women’s literature was published, and terms like ‘sexism’ and ‘sexual harassment’ were not yet common parlance.  


Legislation to make sex discrimination in the spheres of education, employment and access to public services illegal was still to come (albeit soon, in 1975), as was legal protection for pregnant women against being sacked from their jobs and having the right to return to them after a period (though meagre) of maternity leave.  


Much misunderstood and frequently maligned, the Women’s Liberation Movement fought its way into existence in Wales though the path was strewn with obstacles; a conference planned for Carmarthen in 1975 had to be abandoned because, as a newsletter reported, ‘the village balked at the idea of being overwhelmed by bra-burning man-hating feminists or something, so they were refused the village hall’!  But what were the aims of the movement and what did its members do in pursuit of these aims?  What did they achieve?  How was the movement received in South Wales?  These are questions that Dr Rachel Lock-Lewis'current research seeks to answer.   


Significantly, University of South Wales, in its former component parts, played a role in history of the Women’s Liberation Movement. The Students Union in Newport (as part of Gwent College of Higher Education) hosted an event titled ‘Women’s Liberation and Socialism: A Welsh Regional Socialist Feminist Conference’ on 24th June 1978 then Treforest Polytechnic of Wales hosted a weekend school for South Wales Rape Crisis Group to discuss setting up Rape Crisis Centre in October 1978.  


The institution has also played a key role in the study of the history of the women’s movement in Wales holding, for example, a history conference, ‘Working Class Women: The Welsh Experience Past and Present 1983’ at Treforest Polytechnic of Wales on 8th-10th April, 1983.  Much of this was only possible because of the subject expertise, determination and sheer hard work of former colleagues in the History department, Dr Ursula Masson and Professor Deirdre Beddoe.  This research project seeks to carry on their work and legacy.  



Dr Ruth Gaffney-Rhys, Associate Professor in law and Joanna Jones, Senior Lecturer in Business, who specialises in the digital economy, have been conducting research for a project entitled ‘Female Genital Cosmetic Surgery, the Internet and the Law’. Female Genital Cosmetic Surgery (FGCS), which refers to procedures which alter the structure and appearance of healthy female genitalia for non-medical reasons, is the fastest growing form of cosmetic surgery. 

The project considers the legality of FGCS i.e. whether it violates the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 and evaluates the guidance provided online by professional bodies in the light of the legislation. 

The authors also conducted a content analysis of the websites of twelve FGCS providers in order to assess clinics’ awareness of and compliance with the law. Initial findings were presented at the South Wales Business School Annual Research Conference on 2nd July 2020


Dr Katharina Sarter has a long interest and experience in research on public policy and gender equality, particularly in the field of employment and social policies. Katharina has been actively involved in the European COST Action IS1409 Gender and Health Impacts of Policies Extending Working Lives, and been a member of the Board of the Research Network Gender Relations in the Labour Market and the Welfare State of the European Sociological Association until 2019. Over the past few years, Katharina’s research  has taken a specific interest in public procurement as a tool for the regulation of labour and service standards and as a lever to promote equality.

Katharina has presented at academic conferences, published academic articles, among others The Development and Implementation of Gender Equality Considerations in Public Procurement in Germany published in Feminist Economics, 26, 3, p. 66-89, and written and contributed to policy briefs, among others a policy brief/ briefing paper on Public Procurement & Gender Equality, which informed the work of the WBG Commission for a Gender Equal Economy.

Female Genital Mutilation: the law in England and Wales viewed from a human rights perspective by Dr Ruth Gaffney Rhys was published in the The International Journal of Human Rights. Female Genital Mutilation has been described by the U.N. as a ‘critical human rights issue’ and as a consequence, several jurisdictions, including England and Wales, have enacted specific legislation to combat the practice. This paper considers FGM from a human rights standpoint and analyses the law in England and Wales in the light of this. 

Dr Emily Underwood-Lee is leading an Arts and Humanities Research Council-funded project Performance and the Maternal to explore how the maternal is represented in theatre and performance.

Everyone, in some way, has a relationship to the maternal. As Adrienne Rich famously asserted we are all “of woman born” (Rich, 1996). Bracha Ettinger notes that we all carry the maternal within us, regardless of whether we have chosen to become mothers or not, because we all carry the memory of being carried (Ettinger, 2006). Maternal studies as a discipline has been developing in recent years (cf Baraitser, 2009) and has been particularly influential within visual art (cf Betterton, 2014; Chernick and Klein 2011; Liss, 2009; Pollock, 1999;) and drama (cf Komporaly, 2007). Despite the relevance of the maternal it is an area that has broadly been overlooked in Performance Studies. 

This research project aims to investigate the following key questions:

  • How can performance and the maternal cross subject barriers?
  • What is unique about the representation of the maternal in performance?
  • What can healthcare, education, welfare and other practitioners with an interest in the maternal and performance studies scholars and artists learn from one another?
  • What work already exists in these areas?

Juliet Larsen’s PhD in Literature research looks at religion, belief and the sacred landscape in Welsh women’s writing in English in the second half of the nineteenth century, dating from the publication of the infamous ‘Blue Books’ to the early years of the twentieth century, which saw the 1904 – 5 religious Revival in Wales. It argues that at a time when women were denied a voice in the Anglican church pulpit and a place of authority in the Nonconformist chapel, women authors used the novel to expound their religious beliefs, using this form to sermonise and educate their readers. It also examines the related belief systems of folklore and superstition to argue that these beliefs (in the form of the ‘wise woman’ and the witch), far from being subsumed by Christianity, exist alongside the Anglicanism and Nonconformism of the period. 

Her thesis will argue that religion, belief and the sacred landscape are fundamental in shaping both individual and societal identity, and that women turned to literature to express their theological perspectives. This work contributes to the increasing amount of research being done in the field of Welsh writing in English, specifically in terms of religion and other belief systems.

Harvest Home by Hilda Vaughan, edited by Diana Wallace (Honno, 2019) A gripping Gothic tale of possession, madness and murder, Hilda Vaughan’s Harvest Home (1936), is a historical novel set in Abercoran on the south-west coast of Wales during the reign of  George III.


Ruth Gaffney-Rhys (2019) Female Genital Mutilation: the law in England and Wales viewed from a human rights perspective. International Journal of Human Rights.


Rachel Lock-Lewis (University of South Wales, 2018) Invention and Paradox, Myth and Reality: Images of Women in Wales, Vis-a-Vis: Contemporary Welsh artists respond to images of women from the University of South Wales Museum Collection.


In Her Own Words: Women Talking Poetry and Wales, ed., Alice Entwistle (Seren, 2014) A collection of interviews with fourteen women poets from Wales, including Tiffany Atkinson, Ruth Bidgood, Menna Elfyn, former National Poet of Wales Gwyneth Lewis, Sheenagh Pugh, Anne Stevenson, and Zoe Skoulding.



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